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Lent 3 – March 27, 2011

Lent 3A RCL    March 27, 2011
 Exodus 17: 1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5: 1-11
John 4: 5-42

 Have you ever gone on a long car trip with the family? When are we going to get there? Are we there yet? I have to go to the bathroom. I’m hungry. This is no fun. I’m bored. The people Israel are very much like a large family on a long trip. We’ve all been there. Leaving the old familiar place is not easy. Leaving our various forms of bondage is not easy. This Lent we are on a journey with the people Israel. God is going to make sure that we end the journey with enough water and with enough of everything that we need.

Paul this morning gives us one of those unforgettable statements about the journey. “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

 As with many days in the lectionary, there are such riches that we could go on for hours. But I would like to focus especially on today’s gospel. Jesus is on his way to Galilee. John tells us that he has to go through Samaria. He comes to Jacob’s well. He is tired and thirsty. He asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. As we look upon this scene, we need to be aware that Jesus has just broken two rules of his time. First, Jesus is a teacher, a rabbi, and rabbis do not speak to women. Second, Jews do not associate with Samaritans because Samaritans have departed from the true faith. So, when Jesus asks for this drink of water, thousands of years of tradition are crumbling in the background. Right at the start, Jesus is dissolving walls, breaking through barriers with this simple request.

The conversation goes on. It is like an archeological dig of the spirit, going deeper and deeper into the realities of spiritual life. When Jesus talks about the living water, the woman is attracted by the idea on a practical level, If I had a water supply that would never dry up, I would not have to come to this well several times a day, she says. Jesus asks her to bring her husband. She tells the truth. She has no husband. Jesus tells her about her whole life, that she has had five husbands and is not married to the man she lives with. Is Jesus put off by this? No.

Jesus can see into her heart. He knows all about her. She sees that he is far more than just a teacher. She thinks he may be a prophet. But then he tells her it does not matter where people worship. That is one of the issues that have divided the Jews and the Samaritans. The Jews feel that the only place one can worship is in the temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans worship on Mt. Gerizim But Jesus is saying, that’s not the point. The whole argument that has separated the Jews and the Samaritans is irrelevant, like so many theological arguments that we can allow to separate us. What matters is to worship God in spirit and in truth.

Then she really begins to see. “I know that messiah is coming. When he comes. He will proclaim all things to us,” she says. And Jesus answers, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

Jesus has reached across racial, gender, and religious barriers to a woman who, according to the conventional wisdom of her time has a checkered past at best. She knows that he is the One, and what does she do? She runs into town and tells everyone about him. She becomes the first preacher of the good news! And she must be pretty convincing because the people flock to see him, and then they come to know him for themselves.

Here in the first decade of the twenty-first century, we are on a journey, as individuals and as the Church. We are on a journey of realizing that by virtue of our baptism, each of us is a minister. We call this baptismal ministry. God gives every one of us gifts for ministry—gifts of listening, of teaching, music, art, cooking, visiting, balancing the books, paying the bills, caring for kids, extending accessibility, ministries of community development, woodworking, building, encouraging people, shoveling snow. The list goes on and on. Everything we do is ministry.  St. Paul says many wonderful things about this in Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12. With his good teaching and encouragement, people developed their God-given gifts and carried on Christ’s ministry in the congregations which Paul planted all around the Mediterranean basin.

So here we are, on the journey again, the journey to the Promised Land, the journey to a deeper knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the journey to a more profound and joyful sense of who we are, individually and corporately, in God’s eyes. In a very real sense, each of us and all of us are in the kind of dialogue with Jesus that Nicodemus had in last week’s gospel and the Samaritan woman has today. A dialogue in which we look into his eyes and see ourselves so differently than we had before—because Jesus has so much love for us, so much true respect for God’s creation in us that we have to accept that love and respect.

 To the Samaritan woman, Jesus says, without saying it, “You are not an outcast you are a spiritual seeker; you’re on the right track,” and she grasps a truth that is like bedrock to her life, and she begins a relationship with Jesus that carries her into the village to share this new truth.

 I hope and pray that each of us may open ourselves to that level of dialogue with Christ this Lent, to see ourselves as he sees us, and to accept his love for us.

Like the Samaritan woman, may we share the Good News.

                                                                   Amen.

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